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Style Magazine

Campfire Stories

May 31, 2012 08:03AM ● By Style

Camping – pack up the sleeping bags, throw the tent in the trunk, stop for ice.

Sounds easy enough. It sure was for your dad, a Clark Griswold-type who convinced you that throwing caution to the wind qualified as a “fun” family campout – Hey, I know! Let’s set up camp right here! (“Here” being the side of the road, with no acceptable restroom in sight.) And while your entire family laid in the dirt, huddled together for warmth, you knew there was a better way. Here, five tips your dad missed.


Are you RV, cabin, or tent types? Once decided, calculate costs and research campsites. Thousands of California campgrounds mean one thing: variables, from the merely disappointing (sorry, we’re under construction) to the seriously whoa (“clothing optional”). Note to the tent set: an open campground, where everyone shares one large site, typically is the most cost-efficient option, but also the most rowdy; single campsites provide families with more privacy.


Many campgrounds are first-come-first-serve, but the most popular, in and around Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park for example, require reservations (the latter up to a year in advance).



Nothing kills the camping buzz faster than a lack of sunscreen, so get organized. Create a comprehensive list of needed items, from food to utilities to personal supplies, and request that each member of your family create their own list of essentials. Remember, the fun of a family campout is to do things together, so practice saying this (with enthusiasm): Sorry kids, electronics do not make the cut, but Uno and Yahtzee can come! Board games are great, and crafts are always a hit with kids. Have them bring scrapbook materials to create a camping journal or containers to (legally) collect nature samples. Books are great, too!


Camping is a learning opportunity for kids, so engage them with these questions: Why is a first-aid kit necessary? What goes in it? And why do we not wander off to explore by ourselves? Later, while camping, continue the discussion: Why don’t we leave our garbage out at night? Why don’t we feed the animals? Where does our waste go, and why is that important for Mother Nature?


Don’t set your car alarm, try and pitch a tent in the dark, or ignore campground rules. Do leave a clean campsite and respect both the wildlife and your camping neighbors.

Visit for more information and details about camping and campgrounds in California.



Family Camping Essentials

  • Batteries
  • Bug spray
  • Camera
  • Cell phone (for emergencies only)
  • Clothes for chilly nights
  • Condiments
  • Cooking supplies (stove, utensils)
  • Cooler
  • Fire starters
  • First-aid kit (including a snake bite kit)
  • Fishing gear
  • Flashlights
  • Gear for activities
  • GPS
  • Hiking supplies
  • Lantern
  • Matches
  • Nature guidebooks
  • Rain gear (just in case)
  • Rope
  • Sleeping bags (pads, cots and/or air bed)
  • Sunscreen
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Tablecloth
  • Tarp for rain and/or sun protection
  • Tent (and ground cloth)
  • Toiletry items       
  • Toys (kites, Frisbee, glow sticks)
  • Trash bags